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Whether you want publicity for your brand, your business or yourself, TV is the ‘Holy grail’ of PR. We all dream of seeing our brand on TV, and even more so when it’s being featured within the show. In today’s world of multiple TV channels – digital, pay TV and free to air, it’s even harder to get the audience’s attention however, if you’re in the program, you can’t be missed. There are a few special things to remember when pitching to TV producers:
• Try to ring them first. TV Producers react well when contacted with story ideas. Then, if they are interested they will ask you to send an email with the details.
• TV is a very visual media so be ready be sure to include your ideas for any images or footage that could be used to support your story. If you already have some TV quality footage be sure to mention that too.
• Try to put together a visual ‘package’ for the Producer. Often they will want someone to verify your story so give them the names of people that can do that, or if you have a fashion range, make sure you can offer models to make it easy for them to run a mini ‘fashion parade’ on set
• News programs on TV (and radio) have very short lead times so be prepared to act quickly. It is possible that they may ask you to appear on the show later that day (radio) or within a few days (TV and radio) so make sure you are fully prepared before you speak to anyone.
How to pitch to TV Producers
TV is a strange beast. Unlike magazines, newspapers and digital media, most TV producers like to be called first. They will give you five minutes of their time to pitch the story idea (always check that it’s a good time to speak first) so you need to be able to articulate it quickly.
Firstly though, you need to think about what the best way to get your story across would be. What is the best programme format for you – morning TV talk shows, business TV or perhaps product placement in a drama or series? What current programmes on air would suit you or your business?
If you are targeting women or parents, then morning TV shows (the ones that are on-air between 9-11am) are probably a good fit. If your business is more of a B2B ‘fit’ then you might want to approach the news or current affairs or business TV (many are on Sky and the ABC) and if you are prepared to talk on air yourself or have a spokesperson then you could look at breakfast TV – Sunrise or Today.
The next thing to keep in mind is, if the show is currently being aired, wait a while before you call. Breakfast producers tend to work from about 5am to around lunch time/early afternoon, morning show producers tend to work 9-5 and some of the dramas and evening current affairs shows also work 9-5. As we mentioned earlier, always ask if it is a good time first, and avoid calling when the show is actually running.
TV shows tend to have an Executive Producer, who runs the whole show and is the ‘boss’ of the segment producers. They make the final decision with regards to what makes it on air. The segment producers are the ones you want to talk to. They often have titles like ‘Lifestyle Producer’ or ‘Parenting Producer’ so always ask if you are speaking to the right person.
TV producers of daily shows tend to take the pitches during the week and then they have a production meeting internally on a Monday morning (or one morning a week) where they lock in the segments they want to include, and call everyone back to get book the guests. So don’t be surprised if they sound keen and then don’t confirm for a few days. They also tend to work 1-3 weeks in advance so you should have time to book that ticket once they confirm.
A producer once said that the best pitches he received involved a quick phone call with an overview, and then a follow up email that detailed the story idea or expertise of the potential guest, and then suggested 3 or 4 topics that the guest could talk about. If you have an ‘expert’ then include a biography of the potential guest. The producer will need this in order to work out the best questions for the presenter to ask.
How to get your product on TV
Products are slightly different when it comes to getting them on TV. Firstly, you are limited unless you have a spokesperson ready to talk about it on-air. Having said that, you may not need one if you just want to see the product itself featured.
The first port of call when it comes to getting TV exposure for your product is to think of any upcoming dates that might coincide with a ‘gift guide’ segment. Most of the morning shows and breakfast shows will run a gift guide segment a week or so before the date – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas are the main ones to look out for. Often they will break it down for Christmas into Gifts for Mum/Her, Gifts for Dad/Him, Teenage gifts and Baby/Toddler gifts. If your product fits neatly into one of those categories then they should be happy to receive your pitch!
If you have some gorgeous home wares or lifestyle products, there are a couple of ways you can approach TV.
One is to submit the product for consideration when they cover ‘new products’, or to offer the producer a product to sit on set (if it fits) or for the presenters to ‘play’ with. Once we were working with a children’s video brand where they could personalize it so Spiderman had your child’s face, and we sent it through to a show but used the presenter’s faces instead of a child. We got almost a minute on air while they all watched and had a laugh at the presenter/Spiderman character. It worked a treat!
You can also look at some sitcoms/drama series that might fit your product and offer it to the art department to use in the show. We did this with a BBQ on Neighbours and it made it onto the credits! We also offered a pram to Home & Away when one of the characters was to give birth and they used it throughout. Sometimes you need to think a little outside the square when it comes to products. If your product is visually distinctive enough then product placement can work. If not, then go for the gift guide segments or any of the product feature segments.
Lastly, you can always offer a gift for each of the audience members. For most shows that would be 20-40 items but they will often ‘plug’ it on air as they tell the viewers what they are giving the audience members.
What Current Affairs and News Shows are looking for
Most Australian Current Affairs Shows (ACA and Today Tonight) are looking for a clear ‘hero’ or ‘villain’ within the story. They like controversy! You always hear them refer to people being ‘ripped off’ or someone being an ‘angel’ and helping others. If you can offer that kind of angle, they will love it. For instance, a laundry powder brand that doesn’t have bulking agents or ‘fillers’ made it through when we pitched it as ‘most laundry powders are a plain rip off’. Another time we got a guide to child-friendly cafes and restaurants featured when we raised the subject of whether cafes should charge for ‘babyccinos’ and they decided to interview a group of mums we got together for them at a local café.
News shows are different again. The person you need to talk to for a news show is the Chief of Staff. He or she is the person who knows all the stories that are available for that day, and allocates them to various reporters. To get on the news, you need something that is newsworthy, topical, and immediate. If you are booking an event in advance, you need to suggest the kinds (and number) of people that will be there and the reporting opportunities.
If it something less time sensitive like research results or an expert to talk to a reporter, or even if you think it might fit as the frivolous story at the end of the news, you will need to try and make it sound both newsworthy and relatively urgent. Maybe the expert is only in town for a short time or the research results are hot off the press, whatever the ‘spin’, it needs to make the COS want to send a reporter to cover it as soon as possible.
How to put together a TV ‘package’ for pitching
When we say a ‘TV package’, we mean a collection of products, people and locale that offers a complete story for the producer. It may be that you have some high quality footage already (although don’t offer it if it has come from another network), some experts, models or people to be interviewed (depending on what your product is) and ideally, a location that makes it easy for the network to get a crew there.
Once you have pitched the general story to the producer by phone, and they have agreed that it sounds good, they will possibly need to get it approved by the Executive producer (who runs the whole show). Then they will come back to you to sort out how the segment will run, what they need to do at their end (for our laundry powder brand they wanted to test the top 10 laundry powder brands in a laboratory) and what they need you to do. This may mean finding a location or people to interview to ‘round out’ the story.
If you can put together TV package, you are more likely for them to sit up and take notice – but remember TV is never guaranteed. Even if they have shot the footage it can still get pulled at the last minute if something happens in the news or a celebrity is suddenly available. But of you do get on air, the rewards can be huge for your brand. It’s worth a try!
Jules Brooke is the founder of Handle Your Own PR.